Confocal microscopy, dermoscopy, and histopathology features of atypical intraepidermal melanocytic proliferations associated with evolution to melanoma in situ

Int J Dermatol. 2022 Feb;61(2):167-174. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15815. Epub 2021 Aug 5.


Background: Atypical intraepidermal melanocytic proliferations (AIMP) is a descriptive term sometimes applied to biopsies that do not fulfill diagnostic criteria of melanoma. They are common on sun-damaged skin, but their definition and management are controversial.

Objective: To describe dermoscopic (DS), reflectance confocal microscopic (RCM) and histopathological features of AIMP and identify features associated with subsequent melanoma in situ (MIS).

Methods: A retrospective analysis of AIMP lesions correlated with patient outcome at two melanoma tertiary centers between 2005 and 2015.

Results: Thirty-four patients were included. Nine (26%) patients had MIS in subsequent biopsies. Predictors of later MIS were target-like pattern (OR:12.0 [CI: 1.23, 117.41]; P = 0.032) and high-density vascular network (OR:12 [CI: 1.23-117.41], P: 0.032) on DS, and presence of dendritic cells touching each other (OR:9.1 [CI: 1.54, 54.59], P = 0.014) on RCM. Clinical predictors of worse outcome included a previous history of MIS at the same site. Radiotherapy for AIMP had a high failure rate (all patients presented with recurrent disease, three as AIMP and two as MIS).

Conclusions: Considering that most cases in this series received non-surgical treatment at baseline, we recommend close monitoring for lesions with target-like pattern and density vascular network on DS and treatment for lesions with progression of atypia and/or with "confluent" dendritic cells on RCM. Although the number of patients in this series is very low, early surgery is recommended for MIS cases that recur as AIMP.

MeSH terms

  • Dermoscopy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / diagnosis
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms* / diagnosis